Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Some six years ago, a brilliant, outspoken, erudite Sanusi Lamido emerged as the Emir of Kano after the death of the legendary Alhaji Ado Bayero. Ado Bayero, a seasoned diplomat, had reigned for over 50 years, becoming one of the longest serving emirs in the history of the throne. He restored class and grace to the stool, enthroning an enduring atmosphere of peace and stability in his domain.
Sanusi, therefore, succeeded a highly respected ruler beloved at home and beyond, who in addition, had made public his sole desire to be succeeded by his son. But as fate would have it, Sanusi’s emergence- beating two of his sons facilitated by the state government- disrupted this dream and set him at cross with the supporters and sympathizers of the late emir.
But that was not all. Sanusi blazed the stage with so much baggage. He was deep into the politics of Nigeria. A highly controversial governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he was, then, on warpath with his principal, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
At that time, he was the darling of the North as he was an important signature of the moves to sack Jonathan at all cost. His right hand friends were the like of Bola Tinubu, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Nasiru el-Rufai, all of whom were sworn enemies of Jonathan.
In him as the Emir of Kano, they relished his vast exposure and saw a rare opportunity to grab the huge population of Kano votes, which they eventually did with Sanusi playing the background role of pushing the traditional institution in favour of their politics
Things fall apart
The initial days of Sanusi Lamido, renamed Muhammad Sanusi II, after his grandfather, on the throne was heralded by rays of brilliant promises. He pioneered fundamental changes and far reaching reforms, filtered away dilapidated and archaic ways, supported the poor and the vulnerable members, appointed new district heads and made many things out there beautiful again.
But as time flew, Sanusi began to run into trouble with several institutions and power blocks in and outside the state. His high-heeled ego clashed with similar egos. Many interest groups felt that he was rather too Western to be assigned with such a conservative responsibility. Some spoke out about this, others whispered behind him.
His initial area of controversy was festered by his recurrent elevation of women in the society, lifting them to some kind of equals to their male counterparts. This was not funny and did not go down well with Kano community, especially the Muslim clerics.
The sins of Sanusi
That Sanusi, an economist of repute, was on the side of the people in most cases was not in dispute. But in doing that, he confronted a number of very powerful power brokers even outside the state, resulting in his present tragic fall from grace to grass.
Always emotional and passionate about his beliefs, encouraged by his own fluency on the podium, he delivered it the way it was, on many occasions tackling the government and its policies. In one of such vintage outings in Kano State, he rubbished the Federal Government’s forex policy claims. And at another forum, he was on target on the subsidy regime. Only recently, he was tackling government on quota system.
He was been unstoppable and. His mouth could not be shut. Many of his friends were reported to have tried to stop him but failed. One of such persons was the Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Said 111, who often, reminded him that an emir sees with his eyes, but by tradition, shuts his mouth.
His trouble with Ganduje
In dethroning Sanusi, the state government claimed the deposed emir was disloyal to the governor and had absented himself from very crucial state meetings and engagements without valid excuse. Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Usman Alhaji, said: “In so many instances, Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi II has been found breaching Part 3 Section 13 (a – e) of the Kano State Emirate Law 2019 and which, if left unchecked, will destroy the good and established image of the Kano Emirate.”
The deposition, he disclosed, was made after due consultation with the relevant stakeholders and in compliance with Part 3 Section 13 of the Kano State Emirate Law 2019 among others.
He added that it was done to safeguard the sanctity, culture, tradition and prestige of the Kano Emirate Council, built over a thousand years ago.
Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Muhammad Garba told Daily Sun: “It was one of the progressive decisions that have been taken by this administration. A lot of people think that it was long overdue because the emir has done so many wrongs and some are political.
“There is the issue of insubordination, the issue of lack of respect and cooperation with the state government, especially at this critical time. When the state government has a lot of policies and programmes that need the support of the traditional institutions.
“The free and compulsory basic and secondary education is one key programme that we need the support of the traditional institution. But what we have observed is the emir has not keyed into these programmes. There were cases of sabotage in the implementation of the programme. We have quite a number of cases where the emir is needed including meetings and what have you but he failed to attend. The health sector is the same thing.”
Beyond his fine rhetoric lies a much deeper animosity, driven by personal ego, ambition and political survival. Sanusi’s trouble with Ganduje is intricately connected to the quarrel between Ganduje and Kwankwaso.
The Ganduje versus Kwankwaso dispute divided the state into halves, such that any person who belongs to either of them is a sure to offend the other. For retaining his friendship and loyalty to Kwankwaso- the man who supported and facilitated his emergence on the throne- he invoked the anger and enmity of Ganduje.
The deposed monarch was accused of supporting the opposition party. This was the script that was freely sold to the public. Was this the truth? Was this a lie? There is no way of knowing.
In the 2019 governorship elections, it was alleged that he even held political meetings to seek support for the PDP, shared money like politicians to woo voters and personally ensured that the PDP won the elections in his palace and neighbouring communities.
Another likely factor that may have driven the deposition is the politics of 2023. In fact, it was for this reason that some of the fine supporters of the emir within the APC suddenly excused themselves. The calculation is that the deposed emir was on the side of the PDP and therefore, a huge threat to the APC in the next elections.
Outspokenness as a weakness
His biggest undoing was his outspokenness. Many times he spoke the truth to a society that was not all that ready for the whole truth. He lashed at his friends the same way he lashed at his enemies once you are not on the side of the people.
It is an open secret that the resolve to dethrone Sanusi took a flesh of life after he roundly criticised the state government over its decision to secure a $1.85billion loan for the construction of a light rail project.
Last year at the Investment Forum, Kaduna, the former monarch exploded: “We have governors, they go to China and spend one month and what did they come back with, MoU on debts. China would lend $1.8 billion to build light rail. This light rail will be done by rail workers from China. The engines would come from China, the labourers would come from China and the drivers would come from China.
“At the end what did you benefit from it? Your citizens would ride on train. In Northern Nigeria, in a state like Kano and Katsina, you are not going to industrial estate to work, you are not going to school and you are not going to farm. You borrow money to invest on trains so that your citizens can ride on them to go to weddings and naming ceremonies.”
This remark made the supporters of Ganduje go mad.
The final push
The battle to sack Sanusi was not as easy as it appeared. Government and its key plotters had to think very far and tie every string to ensure that, at the end, there was no breach of public peace or bloodletting occasioned by the dethronement.
One of the tactical steps they took was to ensure they handed over power back to the family of Alhaji Ado Bayero in line with the wishes of the old man. Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero emerged as the new Emir of Kano and his senior brother, Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, replaced him as the new Emir of Bichi. By this, government halved the ruling class in the palace, ensuring that opponents of Sanusi, who were offended by his victory six years ago, were relieved and rewarded.
Government also ensured that Kano people were divided too. By the creating four additional emirates, the people from the new emirate councils were automatically on the side of the government against the emir.
The last battle
The last push began about a week ago. In the usual strange manner, a strange document surfaced in the House of Assembly accusing the emir of violating the norms and culture and religion of the people. The petitions were sponsored by the Kano State Society for the Promotion of Education and Culture, through a petitioner, Mohammed Murkthar. Consequently, the house constituted an eight-man committee headed by the Deputy Speaker, Hamisu Ibrahim Chidiri, to investigate the allegations and report in one week time.
A day after, the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission summoned the emir to appear before it on Monday, March 9, 2020, to answer questions on fraud. The commission said the invitation was sequel to an alleged violation of the provisions of Sections 22, 23,and 26 of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law (2008) in the management of the land reserved as “Gundun Sarki,” which is spread all over the state.
Chairman of the commission, Muhuyi Magaji Rimingado, their preliminary findings suggested that a company, Country Wide House, was used to launder N520 million, proceed from 20 hectares of land at Darmanawa 11. He alleged that some of the proceeds of the sales remitted to the account of the emirate council were traced to companies of interest to Sanusi.
Banishment and exile
Deposition implies going on exile in a remote community, where the movement of the deposed king would be restricted. Head of Sanusi’s legal team, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN), alleged that the ex-monarch was banished to a small town in Nassarawa State and held in unlawful custody.
He claimed that upon landing at the Abuja Airport, Sanusi was driven on a seven-hour journey to his place of banishment, arriving his new abode by 2: 00 am: “I was at the palace yesterday afternoon in the company of one of my colleagues to consult with the emir.
“We met him in good spirit in company of his family and a few associates. He said to us that he was waiting for the deposition letter from the Government House and was informed that the Commissioner of Police was on his way along with certain government officials.
“While waiting, there was commotion in the private wing of the palace as some unauthorised persons tried to gain entry into the family section. This led to some scuffle and teargas were fired by the security operatives. Normalcy was restored after the unauthorised persons along with armed security operatives retreated from the inner part of the palace.
“I subsequently, along with my colleagues was able to meet with the Commissioner of Police and other security operatives. With the permission of the emir, they were led to one of his sitting rooms where the deposition letter was served on him by an agent of the state government.
“The emir accepted the letter and decided to acknowledge it personally after writing some Quranic Verses in the Arabic script along with his signature. This was handed over to the government official. In the letter of deposition, it was stated that the emir was to be removed to Nassarawa State.
“We requested to know if he was under arrest and if so, we needed to see the warrant. The Commissioner of Police informed us that he was not under arrest. We informed the Commissioner of Police that it was illegal and violation of his constitutional rights to remove him to Nassarawa State against his wish.
“The emir informed the Commissioner of Police that his friends had sent an aircraft to fly him and his family to Lagos. He requested that they should be provided with necessary security to the airport so that he could leave.
“The commissioner refused saying that that was not their instruction. They were willing to allow the family to leave for Lagos, but he was to be flown to Abuja then onwards taken to Nassarawa State.
“It was clear to us that both the emir and ourselves were helpless. The police and other security agents were willing to take any measure and use force to achieve their objective.
“In order not to jeopardise the emir’s safety or the safety of any member of his family or indeed other persons around, the emir decided to cooperate and proceed in the vehicles provided by the operatives.
“We accompanied the Commissioner of Police to the Nigerian Air Force Base in Kano where the emir was put a private aircraft and departed at about 6.40pm. The family subsequently boarded the aircraft arranged by his friends and departed for Lagos about 15 minutes later.
“We have not spoken to the emir since yesterday. We understand they are at their destination somewhere in a remote part of Nassarawa State after driving for nearly seven hours in the night and arrived at about 2.00 am. We understand the choice of location to detain HH Muhammadu Sanusi II was intended to cause maximum trauma and distress. This again is illegal and unconstitutional.
“We are directed to take legal action to challenge the legality of the emir’s detention and banishment. We are of the firm view that this action is illegal and unconstitutional.
“Section 35 of our constitution guarantees every citizen the right to personal liberty. The basis of the denial of personal liberty is set out clearly in this Section of the Constitution. None applies to the case of the emir.
“The archaic practice of banishment of deposed emirs, a colonial practice has no basis under the Nigerian law or the Constitution. We are totally perplexed at the resort to this practice in present day Nigeria by its political leaders.
“We call on the authorities, in particular the Inspector General, the Director General of Department State Services and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to ensure the immediate release of HH Muhammadu Sanusi II so that he can be reunited with his family.”
Sanusi breaks silence
In a video that was circulated early on Tuesday, the deposed emir told the people of the state:
“The throne of the Emir is not permanent. Every king and leader should know this. If it were a permanent throne, I wouldn’t have been the Emir of Kano.
“Before I came, someone was there. Therefore, it is nothing that should shock anybody. Whenever God says that your time on the throne is over, if you don’t leave with your legs, people would carry your body away out of the palace.
“The important for a leader is a sound and peaceful end. We thank the prophets, the Imams, those who had behind us all these years and we call on the entire Ummah to remain peaceful.
“Anybody who succeeds me should be accepted by the people of Kano, so that he can end well.”
Silent danger in Kano
There is a silent anger among those who are opposed to the deposition. They insisted that the Kano Emirate Law 2019, which empowered the governor to exercise the powers of deposing the emir, did not actually pass the requirements of due process.
A group of Kano elders, led by the former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), Alhaji Bashir Tofa, expressed shock and disbelief, describing the exercise as sad, unfortunate and illegal.
The group assured the people that it would continue to challenge the decision through lawful and peaceful means: “In particular, we have vowed to sustain our judicial challenge to the unlawful law passed by the Kano State House of Assembly under which the governor purportedly removed the emir.”
It counselled the residents and people to remain calm and not to resort to violence: “Violence is no solution to anything as no one can predict where it would lead to.”